By Joe Apu
D’ Tigers Head Coach, Alex Nwora has called for early preparations for the team ahead of the FIBA World Cup African qualifiers billed for February in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’ Ivoire.
Despite Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup in China later in the year, Coach Nwora insisted that the team must be ready for action, not minding the 9-0 record he had run with the squad in the three previous windows.
“We were the first country in the world to qualify for the World Cup and it is very important that we start our preparation early.
“The journey to get the team ready for the World Cup is a long one, but I am happy with the progress we have made so far.”
Ahead of the last window, however, Nwora on Wednesday called up 15 players. The players included Michael Umeh, who was making a comeback to team.
Jekiri Tonye will likely make his debut for D’Tigers after missing out of action in the last window due to administrative reasons, while Christopher Obekpa, Obinna Emegano and Efevhera Michael would also be making a return.
Ekene Ibekwe, whose last appearance was at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and 34-year old Michael Umeh (2015 Afrobasket) with Italian serie A side, Virtus Bologna had both been recalled to the fold.
Team captain and Sichuan Blue Whales player, Ike Diogu alongside, Stanley Okoye, Alade Aminu, Iroegbu Ike, Ike Nwamu, Ayodeji Akindele, Mbamalu Bryant, Zana Talib and Braxton Ogbueze completed the list of players invited.
Nigeria will battle host- Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic and second placed Senegal with 16 points.
Currently ranked 33 in the world and first in Africa, the D’Tigers on a 9 match unbeaten run according to Nwora will hope to finish the campaign on a high a boost the team’s rating before the World Cup draws.
Alex Nwora said the preparation for the 2019 World Cup in China has started in earnest and it was imperative to give more quality players equal opportunity to fight for shirts.
According to the Secretary General of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Chimezie Asiegbu, players and Technical crew are expected to fly straight to Abidjan from the clubs for logistics reasons.